Hawaii Settles Climate Lawsuit Brought by Children

News & Politics

A “historic” climate change lawsuit brought by 13 Hawaiian youths against the state was settled, according to an announcement from the governor’s office.

The suit was brought in 2022 by youths between the ages of 11 and 20. The law firm they retained, Our Children’s Trust, is a radical environmental legal group dedicated to shutting down the fossil fuel industry.

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The suit alleged that “the state’s transport system infringed on their right to a clean and healthy environment,” according to The Hill.

Associated Press:

The lawsuit argued that Hawaii was violating the state constitution by operating a transportation system that harms the climate and infringes upon the right to a clean and healthy environment. It accused the Department of Transportation of consistently prioritizing building highways over other types of transportation.

The burning of fossil fuels — oil, gas and coal — is the main contributor to global warming caused by human activity. Hawaii is the state that most depends on petroleum, according to Our Children’s Trust.

A key term of the settlement requires Hawaii to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions across all transportation modes, including ground transportation and sea and air interisland transportation, “no later than 2045.”

It’s as crazy as it sounds. The state must complete pedestrian, bicycle, and transit networks in 5 years and spend $40 million on electric charging stations.

Being forced to walk or bike across Oahu or Maui might not help the tourist industry.

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Related: BBC Reports that the Current Heatwave Was Made 35 Times More Likely By Climate Change. Huh?

Just as an aside, shouldn’t the state legislature and the governor determine transportation policy? Not when there’s a “climate emergency!” Also, the state will be accountable to a judge to abide by the terms of the settlement. So much for three co-equal branches of government.

The state spent nearly $3 million on an out-of-state law firm and other costs, including expert witness fees. The attorney general’s office said it remained the lead on the case despite help from the outside firm.

The state initially moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the court “cannot coopt legislative and executive power by issuing an injunction ordering HDOT to create new regulatory programs.”

The state also had to agree that depositions of plaintiffs would be conducted with the sensitivity appropriate for their ages, Rodgers said.

“There was resistance,” Our Children’s Trust attorney Andrea Rodgers said of reaching the settlement. “But at the end of the day, Gov. Green and … Sniffen displayed incredible leadership and made the decision to work with the youth and not against them.”

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Welcome to the new America.

Unfortunately, appealing this ruling will be very difficult. The only entity that has standing is the state government. Proving otherwise would be a feat of legal legerdemain that most appeals court judges would dismiss.

The success of the Hawaii youth suit will no doubt encourage other radical law firms to find a bunch of kids to help them sue the state. They may not know much about climate change except what they’ve been brainwashed to believe in schools. But “doing it for the children” is always good politics. 

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